Leonardo Spinazzola's breakout campaign has seemingly solved Roma's left-back riddle for the foreseeable future. With his injury woes behind him and the memory of his collapsed move to Inter Milan serving as a motivator, the 27-year-old Spinazzola is playing arguably the best football of his career and has emerged as one of the league's best left-backs this season.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his partners on the opposite side of the pitch, as Bruno Peres and Rick Karsdorp have each suffered through bouts of inconsistency this season. Due to that imbalance, Roma may once again dip into the transfer market to land their right-back of the future.
While we may have expected the club to pillage some lower Serie A club or perhaps look to France or Spain for a solution, if you believe the press, the Friedkin Group are going back to their roots to solve this problem—deep in the heart of Texas.
With word breaking late last week that Roma had submitted a $9.2 million offer FC Dallas full-back Bryan Reynolds, members of the calcio community were left scrambling to get some shred of insight on the 19-year-old converted winger.
Fortunately for us, we have our own experts in-house. To get a better feel for Reynolds, who could arrive shortly after New Year's if Roma manage to outbid the likes of Juventus and Milan, we turned to Drew Epperly, the managing editor at Big D Soccer, who was kind enough to provide some insight into Reynolds past, present and possible future at Roma.
1.Before we get into the particulars of the move, how are transfers like this generally viewed and/or absorbed by MLS fans and officials: is losing a young prospect to a big European team seen as a badge of honor (of sorts) or a threat to the long-term vitality of the league itself?
Drew Epperly: At this point in the league’s growth, and with how FC Dallas is approaching things, selling young players is becoming more expected. I know fans will get disappointed in seeing a young talent go but most should be more comfortable about these sorts of deals. For FC Dallas in particular, they want to be a selling team more than most. They’ve wanted to become more of an Ajax-type team that develops players and then turns them into a big profit. We’ve already seen that be the case with players like Chris Richards who landed in Bayern Munich. The talent pipeline here in Dallas is still so large and they know they can replace most of these young players pretty quickly with another in the system once one is sold.
2. Okay, tell us a bit about Bryan Reynolds’s background. How long has he been with Dallas? Was he a hyped-up prospect? A sleeper? Somewhere in between?
DE: Reynolds has been around the club and the system for a long time. He was part of the academy team that won the national title back in 2016, so people have had an eye on him since then. He signed his professional contract with FC Dallas shortly after winning that title. At that point, he was more of a forward and a winger than a fullback. The longer he has been a professional, the more he has been spending time as a right back. This move has turned out to be great for him (and the team for that matter) as when he first signed, he was far down the depth charts to get playing time as a forward or a winger. Before this season he has struggling to get a lot of playing time as he was behind Reggie Cannon on the depth charts. He played in a small number of games in 2019, only minutes towards the end of some games when he wasn’t playing with the club’s second team in the USL League One (the third division in the US). Once Cannon was sold this summer, he immediately got put into the lineup by head coach Luchi Gonzalez and pretty much played every game from thereon.
3. He’s only 19-years-old and has plenty of time to mature and develop, but what are some of his current strengths: is he more of an attacking full-back? A defender? The rare kind who can do both well?
DE: Given his history as a winger and forward, Reynolds is the type of fullback that does well further up the field in the attack. He has shown well to overlap a winger and curl in balls into the penalty box (he had three assists in 2020 doing this). His ability to send a cross into the box is better than most fullbacks in MLS. On the defensive end, his pace and soccer IQ is good enough to not get him into too much trouble should he get caught further up the field in the attack.
4. Going along with that, are there any areas, in particular, he needs to address to further his development as a player and to succeed in Europe?
DE: Yeah, he is still 19 years old after all. There is plenty of room for improvement with his positioning along the backline and his work with those in the midfield. At times his passing into the midfield has been a bit sloppy or haphazard. Thankfully it is only little things with him as his athleticism really comes into play for him. With more coaching and maybe a veteran to guide him a bit more, he’ll certainly do well in Europe.
5. While they all weren’t MLS players, we’re seeing a lot of young Americans make headlines with either big-money moves to Europe or simply starting their careers in European academies. As a teenaged prospect, where does Reynolds rank among the likes of Giovanni Reyna, Sergino Dest, and players like that?
DE: He may not be as highly rated as those guys since he has primarily been just in an MLS academy system, but scouts around the world are really starting to take note of what is going on here in MLS and within Dallas for that matter. I have [no] doubt that his connection with Westin McKennie helped lead to Juventus starting up the whole rumor bidding war for Reynolds this past month. Those two played together for some time here in the Dallas academy and we’ve known McKennie to go on to do great things in Germany and now in Italy. I think it is only a matter of time for Reynolds to but pushed up the charts with the Reynas, Dests, McKennies of the world.
6. Finally, if everything goes according to plan for Reynolds, what sort of player is he five years from now? Is he a star in the making? A solid starter? A rotation piece? What exactly should Roma fans expect from him now and in the future?
DE: It helps that in five years he should be in his prime as a 24-year-old player. If it all goes to plan though, he’s a starter in a major European league like in Italy, Germany or even England. He’s a regular on the United States men’s national team as they push towards the 2026 World Cup, which is being held here in North America with Mexico and Canada. And should this deal work out with Roma, he should go from a rotational player to a starter within a season or so. I try really hard not to overhype young players for Big D Soccer as more come through the Homegrown program with the team but Reynolds is truly one of those guys worth overhyping just a bit. His talent always passes the eye test when you watch him play and I really do feel like the sky is the limit for him once he leaves MLS.
Big thanks to Drew for his time. Reynolds seems like an intriguing addition to Roma's full-back group, and if the move comes to pass, we'll take a deeper look at how he'll actually fit in with Paulo Fonseca's tactics.